Kings of the Castle by Murray Walker
There hasn't been much to really shout about this year in terms of the Cape Town rock scene. Sure, some exciting shows have gone down, Tallest Man on Earth, Two Door Cinema Club, RAMfest but those guys aren't from here. Cape Town's bands, while not doing anything wrong, they're not really doing anything exciting either.
With few exceptions the city’s scene has hit cruise control. The lights have been dimmed and we’re just standing, nodding our heads and tapping our feet; a little bored.
Of the notable exceptions, those with their feet firmly in control of the throttle, is Mr Cat and the Jackal. Their allure was enough to get me to Assembly on Saturday night, 5 May. They opened for Scoundrels, a blues rock 4-piece from London who are said to be primed for world domination but more on them later.
Mr Cat and the Jackal have to be one of the most wholly creative musical outfits South Africa possesses. They play a variety of instruments that construct a sound pleasingly peculiar. Accordian, slide guitar, autoharp, marimba, piano and banjo are just a handful of the instruments used on their 2011 sophomore album ‘Sins and Siren Songs
Live, this band of gypsies is just phenomenal. You cannot help but be drawn into their world. The emotion and intensity and enjoyment the entire band puts forth produces a piece of theatre that I don’t think any other South African band can match right now.
Their show at Assembly gave me faith in the local scene again. Their performance of ‘The Rain Came Pouring’ and ‘The Spawn of Pirates’, together making up a single narrative was pure insanity, complete with a metal breakdown (using an acoustic and a slide guitar) spanning the two halves. They also showcased a new track that proves their rock ‘n roll credentials.
Also worth mentioning was Bicycle Thief, who opened the evening’s proceedings. They’ve only been around for a year, this was the first show I’d seen of theirs and I was cautiously impressed. They certainly have good ideas, and their sound is not easily pigeonholed which is promising. Keep your eyes on this 4-piece.
Scoundrels have been on a 3 week tour of South Africa. Their shows on the Highveld were said to have gone down well but the turnout at Assembly proved that this was a band still largely an unknown entity – more people watched Mr Cat. As to whether they will take the world by storm is something I’m not sure of but I can’t say they disappointed. The guitarist, George Elliot, shreds. When the youngster isn’t shredding, he picks ferociously.
They can tone down for some country and simple blues numbers too. I’m always a little sceptical of ‘happy blues’, a contradiction if there ever was one. Scoundrels manage somehow though to keep things light, both in their banter with the crowd and their lyrical content. It works but whether they can be taken seriously as a blues band remains to be seen.
Mr Cat certainly stole the show at the Assembly. Show these guys some love next time they’re in town. South African rock music (I use the term losely) has a new torchbearer.
Writer, photographer, wannabe rock star.
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